My story with yoga

October 22nd, 2019

By: Elisa Govea

I got to my first yoga class out of insistence from a friend, more than out of self-conviction. After trying jogging, aerobics, gym, and ending up bored and sore, I decided to give yoga a chance. While the teacher was talking to us about breathing and chanting “om”, I thought: what am I doing here?!

The first pose was downward facing dog. Although I had never done, or even seen this pose, my body seemed to recognize it. I got into it with ease, and it felt so good… like liberation, like a relief. My body seemed to be telling me: I have been waiting 25 years for you to do this!!

After the class, I felt wonderful. I had inhabited my body in a different way. It was a completely new sensation for me. My friend and I enthusiastically agreed to come back for the following class. My love story with yoga started since, and today, at 40 years of age, I am more in love than ever.

I started practicing with little consistency. In the beginning, it was just a great way to exercise. I found it a perfect combination that helped me stay healthy and made me feel good, it helped me stay fit, which satisfied my feminine vanity, and it also kept me in a good mood. Before or after class, students would gather ant talk about vegetarian recipes, reiki, and alternative medicine. I wasn´t interested and I even thought: I will never let those strange ideas get into my head. (!!)

As months went by I found more and more reason to attend my class. If I was absent for too long, my body and my mind demanded it. Suddenly the idea of chanting “om”, or letting my breath guide me through the movements, or observing my mind while lying down on the floor, didn’t seem so crazy. I stumbled upon a book called “Yoga for dummies” by Georg Feuerstein and Larry Pane. I could tell by the look of the photographs that it was an old book. It was written and designed in a simple and clear way that would not scare sceptics like me away. It talked about everything that lies beyond the beautiful yoga poses that seemed to be for dancers or contortionists. It was such an interesting book to me. Yoga made sense not only in my body but in my mind and my heart as well. Let’s not include the spirit just yet, I used to call myself an atheist, and I did not believe in spirits!

I particularly remember a phrase that has become one of my favorite quotes: “In life there are no mistakes, there are only lessons.” Keeping that perspective in asana class makes a lot of sense. If I am not performing a particular asana correctly, my teacher will bring that to my attention and give the guidelines to improve. However the day I came upon that phrase in the book, I was sitting on a beach in Tulum at a decisive moment in my life. I had to make an important decision about my future. Then that phrase took a much deeper meaning, and that is why I fell in love with yoga. We all love these inspirational phrases. We read them once and again in books, we post them on facebook, we write them on post-it notes, we wear them in t-shirts or on our skin. However, if they don’t become actual changes in our patterns of behavior, they are just empty phrases and are useless. If spiritual growth could be achieved by drinking out of a mug with the phrase “be yourself”, we would all be buddhas! And so, the question that remains in our head but that we rarely dare to ask is: How do I use this phrase in my life? This is where the magic of yoga lies. If we put these concepts into use in a “physical” practice and we turn them into our usual way of standing, moving, posing, and placing ourselves, our powerful subconscious mind will do the rest. One day, inadvertently and unexpectedly we will make decisions that will lead to acts that are congruent with this principle that we have turned, through the practice, into our pattern of thought, and therefore, of conduct. According to Jung, our mind understands the language of symbols. In life, the subconscious mind recognizes the parallelism between a particular asana and the psychological circumstances that we are presented. It will, then, respond according to the same principles. As my dear student David once told me: “When you start aligning your body, you start aligning your life.” Hence, that day, in that particular moment of my life, that phrase was not empty. It found an echo deep in my body and my subconscious mind, as the result of years of practice. Because of that, I was able to make a decision that might have been surprising to the people that knew me at the time, but that came to me in a natural way, with certainty and equanimity. In fact, many people close to me found it hard to understand and accept my decision. Inside me, however, there was no doubt. I had complete clarity that it was the right decision, that I had learned what I had to learn from those set of circumstances and that I did not need to repeat the lesson, I was ready to move on.

The situation is more complex, of course. Our subconscious receives information from all our surroundings, 24 hours a day, not just the 90 minutes we spend practicing. It then becomes a matter of patience and concentration, to achieve an uninterrupted practice through every waking moment, and even sleep. But beginners like me, we start by noticing what forms and messages we are engraving into our body and our mind while we are doing yoga practice: What do I tell myself when I perform an asana well, or when I don’t? What is my motivation to practice such or such pose? What do I feel if I stretch a bit more here? And what am I doing with this other par, can I feel it?

Many people remember the day they met their partner. They tell the story of how they fell in love very enthusiastically. To me, the day I found yoga and fell in love with it and decided that I wanted it to always be in my life, is that special.

A year after that decisive moment in that crystalline beach, where, a simple phrase planted a seed in me, I quit my job and enrolled in my first Yoga Teacher Training. Today, more than ten years later, I feel more and more fascinated by the wonders of yoga. As all wonderful things, though, it cannot be entirely understood using only rational and literal intelligence. As all arts, yoga can take a life time (or more) to develop.

PS: For 10 years, I have been flexi-vegetarian, I use both traditional remedies and laboratory medicines and I don’t understand very well how Reiki works but I remain receptive to the many different ways that take us to holistic health. But how did I go from sceptic atheist to today´s flexi-spiritual, I guess, is a whole other story…